Sign In
forgot username or password?

Our Pastors

Pastor John Roekle

Pastor John D. Roekle has been in Racine serving the congregation since 1996.  Ministry began for him in Florence, Wisconsin where he served St. John's Lutheran Church after graduating with a Master of Divinity degree from Wisconsin Lutheran Seminary, Mequon, Wisconsin in 1991 until arriving in Racine.  Born and raised in Saginaw, Michigan, Pastor Roekle went to high school at Michigan Lutheran Seminary graduating in 1983.  His next four years were spent at Northwestern College (which amalgamated with Dr. Martin Luther College to form Martin Luther College, New Ulm, Minnesota), graduating in 1987.

In 1990, Pastor Roekle married Katherine (Katy) Behnke.  Together they have four sons: David (married to Hannah); Michael; Stephen; and Benjamin.  The Roekle family has enjoyed traveling, especially to cities with Major League Baseball parks.  He is an avid sports fan and still enjoys playing basketball.

Recent Sermons by Our Pastors:

Remember Jesus Christ: He Has Risen! - Pastor John Roekle

April 21, 2019 [Easter Sunday] 2 Timothy 2:8 J.D.Roekle

8 Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. This is my gospel.

Remember Jesus Christ: He Has Risen!

Dear Friends in Christ,

How’s your memory? Let’s test it for a moment. What month and day did Easter fall on last year? You’re correct if you said April 1st. Now, what did you do on Easter? Were you in church here or somewhere else? What did you have for your Easter dinner? What details do you remember? If you are like me, Easter celebrations tend to run together and it’s difficult to remember many of the details from year to year. Sometimes we need to be reminded by people with better memories than ours.

Early on the first Easter morning, an angel announced to the women coming to prepare Jesus’ body for burial that Jesus wasn’t there. “He has risen!” the angel said. And then, the angel went on to test their memory: “ Remember how he told you, while he was still with you in Galilee: The Son of Man must be delivered into the hands of sinful men, be crucified and on the third day be raised again. Then they remembered his words.” It was a good thing that angel was there. He helped clear things up for them as to what was happening to Jesus by simply pointing them to words Jesus had spoken to them.

The Apostle Paul is testing our memory this morning. What’s so special about Easter Sunday? The devil wants nothing more than to get us to forget its significance. The world around us tries to divide our attention which often keeps us from remembering. And we are our own worst enemies as we get so distracted by so many things that are far less important. Today on this Easter morning, let’s simply remember Jesus Christ and hear again the simple yet powerful truth that He is risen! We’ll do that by talking about each phrase of this short verse.

Paul begins: Remember Jesus Christ. Names are important. But a name isn’t just merely a title. A name includes reputation. It includes everything that a person is, or has done or stands for. For instance, what do you think of when you hear the name Giannis Antetokounmpo? He plays for the Milwaukee Bucks. He will likely win the MVP. He’s known as the ‘Greek Freak’ because of his abilities for a man his size. Perhaps even more comes to mind when you think about Giannis.

Now consider the name Jesus. What does this name bring to mind? This is the God-given name for him at birth which angels delivered to Mary and Joseph. It is a name which means ‘Savior.’ From the moment this Jesus came into the world, he was all about carrying out his mission to save. Everything he did played a part in completing what he had set out to do in defeating Satan who had ruined his creation. On Good Friday, the battle reached its final decisive hour. It was on the cross where God and Satan battled for your soul. It was a struggle to the death, and by the end of the day, Jesus the Son of God lay dead in a tomb. But that wasn’t the end of Jesus! Far from it. It is on this day that we celebrate that Jesus has arisen. He is alive!

What you need to remember is that Jesus is also the Christ. Jesus is the ‘Anointed one.’ God chose him and anointed him to go the distance for us. The Old Testament prophecies talked about a Messiah who would come. Jesus is that Messiah who fulfilled all those prophecies. God chose Jesus not only to suffer and die, but also to rise and to live forever. Now Jesus Christ has ascended to the right hand of God where he rules all things in heaven and earth. Do you remember this Jesus? Since he has all this power, he also has power to save all those who believe in him.

Paul also calls on us to specifically remember that Jesus Christ was raised from the dead. At times, we may try to comfort each other when a loved one dies by thinking that death it natural. Death is inevitable, but it’s not natural. God did not create people to die at the beginning. But when Adam and Eve sinned, death entered into the world. And not only physical death, but eternal death – permanent separation from God.

That’s what was in store for every sinner…each one of us. That truth can fill us with fear! Our sin separates us from God, threatens to separate us forever! But remember that Jesus Christ was raise from the dead. He carried all your sin to the cross with him and now he comes out of the grave victorious. His resurrection proves that God accepted his sacrifice for our sins.

And Jesus’ resurrection is the very foundation of our faith. That’s what we celebrate today. His resurrection gives us certainty about our forgiveness and all the promises God has made. You can trust God with your life and with your soul!

Have you ever wondered what nonbelievers do at Easter? Yes, often time the world crowds in and puts a secular spin on Easter. But that side of Easter hasn’t caught on like it has a Christmas. And so, as we celebrate the resurrection of Jesus, what do nonbelievers do? Even more, what do they do when they stand next to a casket? Or what do they think when faced with their own mortality?

Be thankful, dear friends that you remember the truth about Jesus. That he is the resurrection and the life! That whoever believes in him will live, even though they die!

There’s another important truth Paul reminds us of: Jesus Christ is descended from David. David was a man, and as a descendant of David, Jesus Christ was also a man. That means that not only did the Son of God rise on Easter morning. The Son of Man did too. In so doing, Jesus is giving us a glimpse of the day he will raise us from the grave. When he calls us out of our graves, our bodies will be much different, much improved. Our bodies will no more be broken with handicaps, diseases, or illnesses. There will be no more aches or pains. No longer will we experience disappointment or fear or experience tragedy. The old order of things will all be gone.

Paul reminds us that “We will all be changed in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet.” (1 Corinthians 15:51,52) Jesus was raised from the dead. And because he rose, he will show his power over death by raising up all people and glorifying the bodies of all who trust in him. That’s the comforting truth that Job confessed: “After my skin has been destroyed, yet in my flesh I will see God; I myself will see him with my own eyes—I, and not another. How my heart yearns within me!” (Job 19:26,27)

The Apostle Paul wraps up all these things that we talked about this morning by saying: “This is my gospel.” Now, this ‘gospel’ or ‘good news’ isn’t just Paul’s privately held religious opinions. This is the gospel of Jesus Christ! It is God’s message that he gifted to Paul ad to us. It is a message of peace and hope to the world! God has given it to the world. Because God said it, it is true! In God’s grace, he has given this gospel to us. Your faith in him is secure and sold. This gospel is rock, not shifting sand.

Dear friends in Christ, by next year at this time, you may forget many of the details of what you did today. But always remember what God has done for you. Remember Jesus Christ, raised from the dead, descended from David. Amen.

Throw Out the Trash - Pastor John Roekle

April 7, 2019 [Lent 5] Philippians 3:7-14 J.D.Roekle

7 But whatever was to my profit I now consider loss for the sake of Christ.

8 What is more, I consider everything a loss compared to the surpassing greatness of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whose sake I have lost all things. I consider them rubbish, that I may gain Christ 9 and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ—the righteousness that comes from God and is by faith. 10 I want to know Christ and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of sharing in his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, 11 and so, somehow, to attain to the resurrection from the dead.

12 Not that I have already obtained all this, or have already been made perfect, but I press on to take hold of that for which Christ Jesus took hold of me. 13 Brothers, I do not consider myself yet to have taken hold of it. But one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead, 14 I press on toward the goal to win the prize for which God has called me heavenward in Christ Jesus.

Throw Out the Trash

Dear Friends in Christ,

Imagine that you have found a place where you would like to live that is away from all crime and health concerns. The weather is always perfect. The people are sincere and friendly. The thing is, only certain people are allowed in to this country. You apply for citizenship and you are accepted. But before you can go, there’s a waiting period to enter into that land. So you spend your time during this waiting period preparing to move. And what do you spend your time doing? You spend your time figuring out just what is necessary for you to bring to this new land. You spend your time decluttering. You spend your time throwing things out that you don’t really need or have use for anymore.

You actually do have citizenship in an indescribably great place. A place where there are no more worries. A place where everything is perfect, and not just figuratively speaking, but in reality. The people are perfect. Everything that happens there is perfect. A place where there is no more mourning or crying or pain for the old order of things has passed away. It is a place where you will see your Savior Jesus face to face. You aren’t there yet, but that’s where you are headed through faith in Jesus. So what do you do in preparation for the time that God calls you heavenward? You spend your time decluttering. You spend your time throwing out the trash. Let’s take some time and consider what that means.

What is it that you need in order to enter heaven? There were some people in Paul’s day who tried to muddy the waters. They taught that you had to believe in Jesus, but there was more. You still had to follow the requirements of the Old Testament ceremonial laws. Those ceremonial laws were designed to point to the Messiah. Now that the Messiah, Jesus, had come, they were no longer necessary to follow. They weren’t bound to them. Unfortunately, this group of people insisted that they follow these laws.

Paul could boast about having followed these laws. He said: “If anyone else thinks he has reasons to put confidence in the flesh, I have more: 5 circumcised on the eighth day, of the people of Israel, of the tribe of Benjamin, a Hebrew of Hebrews; in regard to the law, a Pharisee; 6 as for zeal, persecuting the church; as for legalistic righteousness, faultless.

If anyone was going to get to heaven by who they are and what they did, it was Paul. As he said, he was “a Hebrew of the Hebrews.” He did everything he was raised to do; everything he was supposed to do.

And yet, what does he say about these things? “I consider them rubbish.” These things have absolutely no worth or benefit in getting him to heaven. In fact, relying on them would have the exact opposite effect. Relying on them would hold him back from eternity with Jesus.

Being confirmed, receiving a Christian education, attending church faithfully, giving of your treasures, and volunteering your time, and talents for church are all very good things. But let’s be careful on how we view those things. Let’s not look at them as some kind of pedigree that leads us to think we deserve heaven because of them. If somehow we believe that these things make us righteous before God, then we’ve got it all backwards. They need to be thrown out like garbage.

If that’s the way we view such things, it means our focus is off. Your passport to heaven has nothing to do with you. It has everything to do with Christ.

Nothing that I do gets me to heaven. As Paul said, what I do – even the best that I do – is rubbish. That cannot get me in a right relationship with God. And so, it needs to be what Christ has done that does it for us.

And just what has Christ done? Christ has made things right between us and God. As the Son of God, he was perfect before he set foot on the earth. From the time he was born into this world until the moment he ascended, he maintained that perfection. And still today, he remains perfect and always will be.

It is this perfection that Jesus offers and gives to us through faith. You see, in order to stand before God, we have to be holy. We have to be perfect. We don’t meet that criteria with what we do at all, however. Those with a passport to heaven need to remember that we need to rely on what Christ has done for me. It is his righteousness that we rely on.

So Jesus provides a perfect life for us. But what about our trash, our sin? Jesus takes it all out for us. By his death on the cross, he eliminates all of that. Our sins are no more in God’s sight. Jesus has removed them from God’s sight. The sin we commit no longer prevents us from citizenship with God.

Again, being in God’s good graces has nothing to do with you. It is through faith and faith alone that we are saved and homeward bound to heaven. When we fully understand that, it is like a huge burden being lifted from your shoulders. The burden is on Christ.

So let’s cast aside the trash of our perceived goodness, and let’s rely solely on Jesus. Let’s continue to live a “trash-free” life. What does that mean, practically speaking? Paul said: “one thing I do: Forgetting what is behind and straining toward what is ahead.

The analogy Paul uses is that of a runner running a race. The runner has a goal in mind and needs to keep focused on that goal. In doing that, the runner doesn’t want to be constantly looking behind. That will not only slow him down, but it can make him veer off course or get tripped up by an obstacle.

Consider how we can veer off course or be tripped up in our race to heaven by looking behind. On one hand, we perhaps look back and kind of pat ourselves on the back for all our accomplishments. I’m not just a bad person. I’ve done some pretty good things. I think I deserve the prize of eternal life. That kind of attitude puffs us up with pride. It also tends to make us spiritually lazy. We rest on our laurels – our perceived successes and achievements. But again, before God, those things are really all rubbish. Only what Jesus has done mean anything before God.

On the other hand, we have to be aware of an equally harmful thing. It can also be a tendency of ours to look back at our past sins and failures. We grieve over them as if they haven’t been forgiven. We all feel guilt. When we do something wrong, we have to live with the consequences. And many times those consequences make us feel guilt over the sin we’ve committed.

But remember that not only did Jesus take away your sins when he died. He also took away your guilt. God put your sin and your guilt on him. He suffered the deadly consequences for you. That means, while there are temporary consequences, you will no longer have to suffer any lasting consequences.
And so we do well to get rid of that trash too. After all, hanging on to past sin and revisiting it and feeling guilt over it can only lead in one direction and that is despair. You have no need to despair. Christ’s blood covers every last sin.

In just a couple short weeks we will be marking the day of the glorious resurrection of Jesus Christ. As you continue your journey to your heavenly goal, Jesus’ resurrection is a great reassurance for you. Just as he rose, so will you rise to be with the same Savior who suffered, died and rose for you. What a glorious future to look forward to. In the meantime, remember to take out the trash regularly that would try to prevent you from this. Amen.

God's Answer to Rebellion - Pastor John Roekle

March 24, 2019 [Lent 3] Numbers 16:23-40 J.D.Roekle

23 Then the Lord said to Moses, 24 “Say to the assembly, ‘Move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram.’ ”

25 Moses got up and went to Dathan and Abiram, and the elders of Israel followed him. 26 He warned the assembly, “Move back from the tents of these wicked men! Do not touch anything belonging to them, or you will be swept away because of all their sins.” 27 So they moved away from the tents of Korah, Dathan and Abiram. Dathan and Abiram had come out and were standing with their wives, children and little ones at the entrances to their tents.

28 Then Moses said, “This is how you will know that the Lord has sent me to do all these things and that it was not my idea: 29 If these men die a natural death and experience only what usually happens to men, then the Lord has not sent me. 30 But if the Lord brings about something totally new, and the earth opens its mouth and swallows them, with everything that belongs to them, and they go down alive into the grave, then you will know that these men have treated the Lord with contempt.”

31 As soon as he finished saying all this, the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community. 34 At their cries, all the Israelites around them fled, shouting, “The earth is going to swallow us too!”

35 And fire came out from the Lord and consumed the 250 men who were offering the incense.

36 The Lord said to Moses, 37 “Tell Eleazar son of Aaron, the priest, to take the censers out of the smoldering remains and scatter the coals some distance away, for the censers are holy— 38 the censers of the men who sinned at the cost of their lives. Hammer the censers into sheets to overlay the altar, for they were presented before the Lord and have become holy. Let them be a sign to the Israelites.”

39 So Eleazar the priest collected the bronze censers brought by those who had been burned up, and he had them hammered out to overlay the altar, 40 as the Lord directed him through Moses. This was to remind the Israelites that no one except a descendant of Aaron should come to burn incense before the Lord, or he would become like Korah and his followers.

God’s Answer to Rebellion

Dear Friends in Christ,

We are born with an innate ability to complain. Some are more vocal than others about it. But we all do complain. Something that epitomizes it is our conversation about the weather. When it’s cold, we complain. When it’s hot, we complain. Even when the weather is just right, we still find a way to complain. It could be a couple degrees warmer or cooler. I wish it would rain…my grass could really use the moisture. When will the rain or snow stop!

While complaining about the weather doesn’t really seem like a big deal, think about who it is we are actually complaining against. We are grumbling against the one who is ultimately in control of the weather. We are lodging complaints against God. And while we may not think of it this way, complaining about something God controls is really a form of rebellion.

When we think about rebellion, we may think about of it as usurping an authority by force. But our grumbling against God by complaining about the weather or other complaints we may have, is a way of telling God that we don’t like or trust his leadership, and we think we’d do better if we were in charge. Today we want to talk about this rebellious attitude and see how God responds to it.

The event that took place in this chapter of Numbers is one of the most terrifying accounts of the Bible. The man named Korah led a rebellion that ended terribly. The earth split apart and swallowed up Korah and the leaders who were following him. They were all buried alive.

In order to grasp what’s going on here, let’s go back to the beginning of this account. Korah is a relative of Moses and Aaron. They were all Levites. Levites were in charge of various things relating to the tabernacle, including assembling and disassembling the tabernacle as they travelled through the wilderness. However, only Aaron and his sons were to serve as priests. Korah was not a priest.

Apparently, Korah took exception to this. He also took exception to the leadership of Moses. Korah incited other men to rise up against Moses and Aaron. Three of them were from the tribe of Reuben: Dathan, Abiram, and On. There were also 250 well-known community leaders that joined them.

Grumbling is contagious. How often do you start complaining about something just because someone else complained about it. One place where that happens frequently is on social media. I see that happening often when I read the comments after an article at an online news website. One person complains about something that was written in the article and others are emboldened and go ever further. Before you know it, there is an all out assault on the author of the article or someone featured in the article. A herd mentality develops in which people join the cause even though they may not have all the facts.

Korah’s grumbling against Moses and Aaron had caught on. Not only were Dathan, Abiram, On, and the 250 community leaders complaining, but it appears the rest of the nation joined in on the grumbling. It was getting out of hand!

In order to put a stop to it, Moses told Korah that he and all his followers were to appear before the Lord. Aaron would be there too. And this was what they were to do: The leaders were all to bring censers – which are vessels used for burning incense. Priests were the ones who were normally tasked with burning incense. They were all to appear before the Lord with their censers, and the Lord would decide the matter.

When they assembled before the Lord, the Israelite people showed up in support of Korah and his followers. God then commanded Moses and Aaron to move away from this assembly because he was going to put an end to them.

It was then that Moses and Aaron fell facedown before the Lord and pleaded that the Lord not wipe out all the people because of Korah and his followers. The Lord heard their prayer and then the Lord told Moses and Aaron to have the entire assembly move away from the tents of Korah, Dathan, and Abiram. And once they did, the events described in our text unfolded.

Listen to the description again: …the ground under them split apart 32 and the earth opened its mouth and swallowed them, with their households and all Korah’s men and all their possessions. 33 They went down alive into the grave, with everything they owned; the earth closed over them, and they perished and were gone from the community.”

And none of those originally rebelling had escaped. The 250 community leaders who rebelled weren’t swallowed up by the earth. But they were consumed by fire. God’s judgment on all these men was swift. They had rebelled against God’s appointed leaders and they paid the price.

That tells you something about God. He is serious about grumbling because grumbling is really ultimately rebellion against God. It is like telling God that he isn’t doing a good enough job, and that you can do better. How often is that the case for us?! We question why God does this or that. Why does God put this person is this position and not me. Why does God give this person this, and not me. Why does God give this person these certain gifts, but he doesn’t give them to me.

Dear friends, recognize how personally God takes these assaults on his good name. Understand that God is concerned about us giving him the glory. That’s what the first and second commandments are all about. He wants us to give him the glory and at the same time he doesn’t want us to bring his name down. When we grumble and complain, that’s just what we are doing.

And so, God is serious about this when we offend him in this way. Look at what he did to those rebelling against him. And in fact, the rest of the people, after witnessing what just happened to these rebels, were convinced that the ground was going to swallow them up too. But it didn’t. Remember, that Moses and Aaron had interceded on their behalf. In his mercy, the Lord would spare them. He had them move away from the Korah and the rest, so that they wouldn’t receive the same fate.

When the full weight of our offense against God hits us, we too feel the weight of the punishment we have coming. But yet, the ground doesn’t swallow us up. And why? Because Jesus intercedes for us. Jesus was swallowed up instead. He was swallowed up by death. He took on the full weight of judgment for all our grumbling, for all our rebellion, and we escape unscathed. You are completely forgiven. You don’t have to worry about God’s judgment. In the end, through Jesus, you are God’s child and will one day enter the Promised Land of eternal life with him.

There’s a happy ending to this account. Later on in the book of Numbers (26:11), Moses states: “The line of Korah, however, did not die out.” That means that not all his family followed in his rebellion and were swallowed up by the earth. In the Psalms, we find evidence of that. Several Psalms (eleven in all) were written by the sons of Korah.

Let’s be encouraged to follow their examples. Even when everyone else seems to be grumbling, let’s resist. Let’s keep in mind that God is ultimately the target. And God is ultimately in control. Even though we don’t always understand what he does and why he does it, God always has your best interest in mind. You can’t see the future…you can’t see what God’s plans are for you. But whatever it is, God will work through it in the best interest of your soul. Amen.